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People above 65 years will double in India by 2050
Sreelatha Menon in New Delhi | February 25, 2008 15:53 IST
Imagine a world where half the population is above the age of 80. It is a cause for celebration.
The prime minister of India is over 75 and the man driving the nation's Metro revolution, E Sreedharan, is 75. It seems the world is destined to be eternally young.
Among the big two in numbers, China will see its old outnumber the young 25 years earlier than India due to decreasing fertility, says the book. Edited by an Austrian, Gabrielle Sinigoj, it addresses even more the concerns of Europe, which runs the risk of having a constantly depleting workforce and increasing expenditure on social security.
India, of course, has left its aged to the mercy of the five elements with no social security cover. Which is alarming, especially as the book points out that the number of people above 65 will double in India by 2050.
The parents mostly rely on their children, who are most of the time at work. The parents are alone, jobless, stumbling their way to post offices, banks and clinics. Age is accompanied by weakness and illness, and conditions like low vision and diabetes.
Solutions are emerging here and there. In Delhi, after a spurt of murders of aged people, some resident welfare associations decided to address the needs of the aged in their areas.
The previous Budget announced a monthly pension of Rs 300 for those above the age of 65. These are small-time doles that are spread too thin to reach the 8 million people who are aged 81 and above.
Religious institutions can play a role with the huge wealth many of them have. Gurudwaras known for their langars also run communes for the aged where they can live their last days in peace without worrying about healthcare.
Industrialists have been doing their bit, but for their own people. There is the an old-age home built by Kerala billionaire PC Menon in Palakkad where old couples live in five-star comfort free of cost. But of the 81 million old people in the country, 51 million are so poor that they can't afford one square meal a day.
The CII admits it has done nothing for the aged so far. Says Harpal Singh: "We will announce an action plan soon. Anil Ambani's Harmony for Silvers Foundation is dedicated to the aged and plans to have old age homes all over the country. Maybe the CII could take a leaf from that."